- The Washington Times - Friday, March 25, 2005

Good Friday, the holiest day of the Christian year, was dominated yesterday by religious leaders comparing the suffering of Jesus Christ to the apparently impending death of brain-damaged Floridian Terri Schiavo.

Evangelical Protestant and Catholic clergy alike are drawing parallels between the plight of Mrs. Schiavo, now on her eighth day without food and water, and the last hours of Jesus.

“The mother [Mary Schindler] and friends are standing helplessly by,” said one of Florida’s leading clerics, the Rev. D. James Kennedy of the 10,000-member Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale.

“The courts condemn an innocent person to death, the betrayal of a friend, in this case her husband,” he said.

The Center for Reclaiming America, a grass-roots advocacy group affiliated with the church, sent out e-mail to 400,000 supporters yesterday, saying the Florida Constitution allows the governor to intervene and asked Gov. Jeb Bush to do so.

“He is the only legal authority who can save Terri’s life at this moment,” the clergyman said in an interview.

Demonstrators camped outside the Pinellas Park, Fla., hospice where Mrs. Schiavo is a patient have posted numerous signs comparing her ordeal to Christ’s last 12 hours.

One, titled “Good Friday in America 2005,” states, “Husband = Judas; Court = Sanhedrin, Jeb = Pilate, Bush = Caesar, Judge = Herod,” the latter referring to Pinellas County Circuit Judge Greer who has repeatedly denied legal attempts by the Schindler family to reinsert a feeding tube that was removed March 18 from Mrs. Schiavo.

Priests for Life, a New York-based Catholic group, requested clergy refer to Mrs. Schiavo in their Good Friday sermons.

“The Passion of Christ is being lived out in Terri, and our faithfulness to Christ demands that we protect her and all who are vulnerable, as she is,” the group said.

The latest post on the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops Web site, titled “The Passion of Terri Schiavo,” also links the 41-year-old woman to Christ.

“As Terri shares in [Christ’s] passion, she will share in his Resurrection,” Orlando Bishop Thomas Wenski wrote. “Like Jesus did, Terri Schiavo cries out, though with muted voice: ‘I thirst.’ ”

Diocese of Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde, who stated Monday that Catholics “must see in Terri Schiavo’s sufferings the sufferings of Jesus,” still held out hope yesterday.

“Even at this late hour on this Good Friday — when the love of God triumphs over every evil and sin — it is not too late to pray that some other avenue will be opened, so that Terri Schiavo might continue to live, as she deserves,” he said.

Liberal Protestant, Jewish and Catholic leaders continued to back Judge Greer yesterday and asserted that the religious right is behind efforts to save the woman.

“Politicians have seized upon this to trumpet their piety,” said the Rev. Forrest Church of All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City. “They turn President Bush’s culture of life into a parody. Everyone I have talked with would choose death over 15 years of comatose life on tubes.”

He added, “To be on the side of angels is to let Terri join the angels.”

Sister Maureen Fiedler, host of the radio program Interfaith Voices, said a special session called by Congress last weekend to resolve the Schiavo issue “appeared to reward the loyalty of the religious right portion of the Republican Party.”

“One positive fallout,” she added, is how Mrs. Schiavo’s plight has begun “a national conversation on end-of-life issues. It’s gripping everyone I know; and everywhere I go, people are talking about it.”

The Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, president of the Los Angeles-based Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny, noted the absence of black Christians in the debate.

“Nearly all the people fighting and protesting to keep Terri alive are white. Where are the prominent black ministers?” he asked.

“We don’t see them because they’re looking at this as a race issue, rather than as a moral one. Blacks, especially Christians, should stop looking at this issue through the prism of race. The battle is between people who are for life versus those who favor death.”

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